Mad is an ambiguous word, like Zen Fits. Are you angry? Are you crazy? Madness is having a fit. I watched the original Catch 22 a month ago, and that is about the madness of a hermetically sealed world view that turns back upon itself, affirming and validating itself by itself. The reference to reality, to the transcendent Ground of Being, is lost.
I was looking for The Deer Hunter last night and stumbled upon Platoon instead. Vietnam was madness because it became a self-fulfilling tape-loop of though that creates a vicious vortex, a death wish, if you will.
An idealist soldier goes into war, dropping our of college to be a patriot, and ends up killing a crazed platoon leader. So what is the Ground of Being that keeps us from going mad?
We don’t have far to look. Trump and his followers are caught in the pull of the drain hole, a vicious vortex that energizes itself by the very effort to escape it. It’s physics.
When the One as the Ground of Being divided against into two stand-alone-ideas, each with their own reference, the categorical imperative that must be obeyed is Let There Be One. The two faces of the One now battle it out to restore the One.
Like two tomcats they go round and round each feeding the energy of the other because they are already always one, but they appear to be opposite. Jesus says to end the vicious vortex to love or accept your enemy you, in other words, make the Two transparent to the One, and when that happens you reconnect to the Ground of Being that the two originally are, and you now know how to get out of the vortex.
Instead of swimming against the riptide or stream, you use the force of the other to end the death spiral.
The Ground of Being—I bring that word up because it was coined in the 60s by Tillick as a new way of describing God—in Zen is called Prajna, or the aroused mind that does not rest on any form or idea. It has no False Idols.
The only equivalent word in English is Wisdom, but Prajna is dynamic wisdom, a verb, not a wise state of mind. Prajna is Satori or Kensho, a burst of realization that comes through the vortex of suffering and death as light, a flash of light.
The function of Buddhism is to created the conditions for this awakening or Ground of Being to flash forth as creative action. Prajna must be seduced. Like the Unicorn that is caught by laying its head in the lap of the Virgin, Prajna will come when the condition are right.
The irony is that the condition that invites Prajna is the suffering of the Vicious Vortex. It is only when we see through and through that there is No Exit, that there is nothing I can do to end the vortex of thought, that engaged surrender happens. I say engaged because you don’t throw down your weapon and refuse to fight, but at the same time, you see the absolute futility in fighting, so you fall into this intermediate zone where you do not retreat or engage. You are just a question. What’s going on? This is the mystical state of Not Knowing.
When Not Knowing is activated, KNow is activate. Knowing what to do is the action of doing what is needed, what the Ground of Being wants and needs to restore itself as the One that has no second idea contending for Truth.
The Vicious Vortex becomes the Virtuous Circle.
But a thought of Vietnam. Our engagement there to restore the One that was only half the society, created the vicious vortex in which we were caught, and to a degree still caught because that vortex was not just in Vietnam but in America also. America split into two America’s, to patriotic America’s, one whose duty was to fight, and the other whose duty was to obey one’s consciences and protest.
Trump is, in a metaphorical way, a reenactment of the Vietnam Vortex or wound because patriotism or duty is again split and divided against itself.
Madness is our working Idea this morning. What is madness and how do we get out of it. Vietnam kept getting worse and the vortex deeper the more LBJ tried to get out of it. Every effort to close and heal the wound made it wider. The more the blood was sopped up, the more blood poured out. What’s going on? What is the formula here? Is a mad act the only way out of madness?
As I said in the opening of this idea, the way our it a Zen word called Prajna, which is an aroused mind that does not rest on any form or idea. Take an elevator, for instance, if you attach your mind on going up and avoiding down, you have divided the One elevator that is up/down. You have attached with ultimate concern on just having the pleasure of UP. You ban Down from the elevator. Anyone who says “down” is arrested.
But where does Down go, since it is the other half of the elevator? Down becomes projected into the future and comes at UP as its obstacle of going UP.
“Where did this upstart come from?” Said UP. So UP fights the obstacle to its own ultimate concern. I am an UP person, Up says. I will have no Downs before me. UP marshals its forces and goes to war against Down. But UP never realizes the Down is its rejected half or twin. So Down cannot help but fight UP because Down is UP/Down, and UP is Down/Up. The more energy UP pours into its fight with Down, the stronger Down gets because Up is Down and Down is Up.
You see? There’s the formula for madness.
Zen or Prajna (dynamic wisdom) is the realization of the limitation of choice. You cannot choose your way out of madness. You can SEE your way out of Madness, but only when you realize there is no choice. Madness is when you are caught in a Vicious Circle of thought trying to escape its own circle of thought. Two Ideas swirl around each other gathering speed until you end up in a panic attack or some self-destructive act. “Where did that come from?” we say when the dust of madness settles.
The irony is that when caught in a madness that we think is sane, we will do something mad to break the mike away from the WaWa of the amplifier. What have to turn it off or it will blow the mind.
We will turn off madness with a mad act. Maybe you get a baseball bat and smash the amplifier. But with Prajna, the madness will return once more under the guise of normality.
Anxiety is the first clue we have that we are caught in an Anxiety Feedback Loop, another way of looking at Madness. We usually get out of the feedback loop through some intervention, like when you stick your hand in a whirlpool in the bathtub. Or if you are caught in a Mad Cycle and someone smacks you. Zen is full of stories of the Zen Master smacking the monk out of his feedback loop of madness, which is thought trying to get out of thought by increasing thought.